Agora Policy Report Proposes Ways to Accelerate Reforms in Nigeria

Agora Policy Report Proposes Ways to Accelerate Reforms in Nigeria

•Urges next president to lead by example 

•Wants cost of governance reduced

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

Agora Policy, an Abuja think-tank, has said that for public sector reforms to emerge successful in Nigeria, it would require the new president to set the tone very early on in the administration that it will no longer be business as usual.

The Waziri Adio-led organisation in its latest policy memo, stressed that the president must rise to the responsibility of reforms through the challenge of personal example, which Chinua Achebe described as the hallmark of true leadership.

It noted that this would mean showing personal prudence, fiscal responsibility and attempting to gain first-hand knowledge of what citizens experience when they come into contact with their government.

In the paper titled: “How to Accelerate Governance and Public Service Reforms in Nigeria”, written by a former Director General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr Joe Abah, Agora policy said this can be done through unscheduled visits to public organisations and ‘mystery shopping’.

“This would require the new president to set the tone very early on in the administration that it will no longer be business as usual,” it added.

Stressing that it was important to revisit the Oronsaye report, Agora noted that although it is now more than a decade old, most of its recommendations remain valid but have never been implemented.

“Of all the organisations recommended for abolition or merger, only the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) has ever been abolished. In its stead, a new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has been created.

“The impact of the ministry since its creation needs to be evaluated, and the mystery needs to be resolved about the beneficiaries of its interventions and the methodology and data on which their selection was based,” it stated.

It stressed that the number of agencies in Nigeria has more than doubled since the Oronsaye report, saying that it was instructive to note that the Oronsaye report not only proposed organisations that should be abolished or merged but it also listed several organisations that should have stopped receiving government funding for the last 10 years.

Quoting newspaper reports, it suggested that implementing the Oronsaye report could save Nigeria as much as N3.7 trillion.

“Admittedly, abolishing or merging agencies is a difficult task, especially as most of them are established by law, and the issue of potential job losses is always an emotive and politically difficult one.

“However, the government can implement the recommendations in stages, starting with those organisations that should no longer be getting appropriations from the federal budget.

“The difficulty of having to propose specific legislation to abolish or merge each individual agency can be addressed with a single Agencies Reform Bill that abolishes or merges the named agencies,” it added.

Relatedly, Agora policy stated that there was also an urgent need to tackle oil theft and the vandalism of oil pipelines by deploying technology and visibly sanctioning wrongdoers.

“There is also an urgent need to remove fuel subsidies.  Projected to cost $16 billion in 2023, the projected subsidy payments are said to be double the expenditure of all the 36 states of the federation put together.  Nigeria can simply not afford the level of expenditure to subsidise petrol for urban dweller and neighbouring countries (due to smuggling).

“Rural dwellers have been paying higher prices for years. The savings from removing petrol subsidies can be ploughed back into human capital development—including education and health—, investing in the civil and public service with better quality personnel and cutting-edge technology, and can also be invested in power and infrastructure development,” the report stated.

Arguing that Nigerian public service personnel is poorly distributed, with too many people doing too little, and quite a few people doing too much, Agora posited that there was a need to rebalance the public service to ensure that people are deployed into areas of the greatest need.

In its recommendations, it noted that to pull the levers that will trigger an acceleration of governance and public service improvements in Nigeria, the new president, in words and actions, should create a sense of a reform movement in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and lead the movement through personal example.

 “There is a need to raise productivity by facilitating an increase in agricultural and manufacturing output and promoting information and communication technology, particularly with payment systems where Nigeria competes favourably with the best in the world.

 “There is a need for enhanced focus on performance management. Particularly, it would be necessary to set priority targets at the start of the administration. Ministers should also be issued Ministerial Mandate Letters where the president sets out his personal expectations of each minister upon their appointment.

“We also recommend that the current performance management system in place for tracking the performance of ministries is sustained and that a similar system for tracking the performance of agencies be put in place.

“Government’s approach to policymaking should be more thoughtful, technically sound and consultative. Thoughtless and arrogant policymaking inflicts unnecessary hardship on citizens, damages the economy and erodes any goodwill the people may have for the government,” Agora said.

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